May 31, 2009

Say "C-H-E-E-S-E" and Smile!!!

There're many wonderful things that I grew up with on my family's dining table. We're not picky eaters and so, are willing to venture into trying out new stuff. And growing up as a Malaysian, I feel blessed that I've been surrounded by different cultures.

Having been away from home for almost two and a half years, I've been missing some of the things that I took for granted back in Malaysia, one being cha siu bao (叉燒包) or Hong Kong-style steamed buns with Cantonese barbequed pork filling.

In Chinese Cantonese and Mandarin, a filled steamed bun is called "bao." They can easily be found in any Chinese restaurants that serve Hong Kong-style dimsum (港式點心). Now, why I said it's Hong Kong-style? That's because after mingling with some Chinese from mainland China, I realized that 點心 means sweet pastries to them. Haha! So, you see though we're all Chinese, there're still some slight cultural differences among us ... when you compare the Northerners to the Southerners especially!

I believe the last time I had cha siu bao was in late 2006 before I left home. My fifth aunt would get us some cha siu bao from a famous dimsum restaurant nearby her house in Kepong (somewhere in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.) Both my younger brothers love them especially because they were the ones who would wipe these buns off!

Lately, I felt motivated to venture into making homemade cha siu (Cantonese barbequed pork) and Chinese steamed buns. I think this sudden urge rose due to my craving for these buns, my discovery of a pack of pork in the freezer, and the fact that I'd been wanting to try my hands on steaming buns. And better yet, my recent discovery of a GREAT bao recipe on MH's blog! It seemed that the stars were aligned for some bao making!

Aside from my terrible pleating skills, I realized that making good baos isn't that difficult. (Learn more about pleating here .) Other than having a good recipe, some understanding of the ingredients' functions definitely helps. I'd heard from some mainland Chinese telling me that, "弄饅頭需要什么配方啊!!" ("Making mantou doesn't need recipes!!") But at the same time when you're so particular about the result, I do think a formula is necessary! I just hate when some people complain about the food, and yet, refuse to understand the ingredients and follow a recipe precisely. After all, it's all about science!

The recipe from MH's blog yields soft and fluffy steamed buns. They're mainly leavened by baking powder even though a small quantity of yeast is called for. I do believe the yeast is there to provide texture and taste. In fact, we have to make a 12-hour starter dough for this recipe. It's sort of like a shortcut version of the laomian (老麵) method, which is an equivalent to Western sourdough starter--minus the sourness.

I believe that it's the laomian that keeps the buns moist and soft for a fairly long period of time. Actually, I proved the laomian for about 14-1/2 hours because I slept in that morning LOL! Luckily, it didn't turn sour. But as I proceeded with the remaining steps, I found myself having to add more water and some oil to the dough as it was fairly dry. Could this be due to the type of flour that I used and the weather? Very likely ...

Normally, a special type of flour called Hong Kong bao flour is used to make steamed buns. It's bleached and very low in gluten; hence, the white-colored baos seen at restaurants. Mine became yellowish because I substituted bao flour with mostly cake flour--the closest alternative that I could find. Nonetheless, what I was after was the buns' texture. And, I got it!

I read from Jodeli's forum that low-gluten flours make way for baos to smile during steaming. So, forget about those recipes that call for bread or all-purpose flour if you're looking for smiling baos. In the meantime, baking ammonia is traditionally used for making baos served at dimsum restaurants. Though I haven't experienced it myself, I heard that it stinks real bad! No wonder it's called 臭粉 in Chinese, which literally means "stinky powder!"

With the bad things I've heard about and the fact that I don't have it, I decided to use baking soda in place of baking ammonium. Why? This is something I learned when I made my first apom balik, a.k.a. min jiang kuih. I reasoned that baking ammonia becomes alkaline when dissolved in water; therefore, its role as a leavener will only happen in the presence of an acid. In the recipe below it calls for 1/2 tsp of vinegar. Ah-ha! All these started to make sense to me. (Well, baking soda and powder aren't good for us, too, I know ...)

With all the modifications, the baos still smiled at me like nobody's business LOL! I was so happy except I do think the smiling baos somewhat look like fatt koh (Chinese sweet steamed rice cake!) As for the cha siu filling, I sort of did it by referring to recipes and methods from several sources. So, it was mostly eyeballing. I'll document it better the next time I make cha siu again. Anyhow, I better stop rambling and make way for the recipe!

Hong Kong-Style Steamed Buns (adapted from MH's)
Makes thirty 30g buns

Starter dough:

(A)
110g warm water, at 43C/110F
1/8 tsp active dry yeast

(B)
185g Hong Kong bao flour (I used cake flour)
1/2 tsp double-acting baking powder

Main dough:

(C)
375g Hong Kong bao flour (I used cake flour)
200g sugar
*the baos were sweet, adjust the quantity if you'd like them less sweet ... but not too much!)
20g double-acting baking powder
5g baking ammonia *I used baking soda of the same amount
23g shortening
75g water
1/2 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  1. Dissolve together (A) and let sit aside till mixture turns frothy
  2. Combine together (B), then mix in yeast mixture to combine; leave to prove for 12 hours in a covered container under room temperature *I proved mine for about 14-1/2 hours and it was alright.
    *Alternatively, mix all the ingredients for the starter dough together if you're using instant yeast
  3. After 12 hours of proving, the starter dough should feel soft and moist. Mix in (C) to the starter dough to combine well; continue to knead till you get a not-quite-sticky dough ball
  4. Divide the dough by 30g and shape each into a ball
    *I divided mine by 40g as recommended by MH. Worked for me anyway
  5. Roll each smaller ball of dough out with the center slightly thicker than the edges
  6. Place some filling in the center of each circle of dough, then pleat and seal to enclose the buns
  7. Steam the filled buns immediately over high heat above rolling-boiling water for about 10-12 minutes
    *Be fast; otherwise, the baking powder will lose its potency
  8. Serve baos hot or warm

May 29, 2009

Little Matcha Emeralds

I always lament at the fact that there're so many things for you to try in such a short time. It just saddens and makes me feel terrified when I start to connect my life span, impending health problems that I'll have to face as I get older, and the endless list of things to try while I'm still alive. And when it comes to baking and cooking, I have a tendency to get distracted by the never-ending list of recipes awaiting to be tried out. Then, I'll suffer from indecisiveness LOL!

Sometime late last year, I somehow spotted Kelli's green tea sablés on her blog through blog-hopping. I don't remember the exact route that led me to this sweet discovery. But I've got to say, it was a happy accident! Nonetheless as I've lamented to you just now, I was distracted by so many other recipes that I literally forgot about these shortbread cookies. And unfortunately, I wasn't aware that the recipe was sitting at a corner of my mountain-high stack of many other recipes ... calling out my name. It only came to my consciousness after I saw the small bag of green tea powder that my Mom and Aunt sent me a while back. I thought to myself, "I forgot the forgotten! It's time! It's time!" 
   
So, off and I went to prepare the ingredients. My apartment was filled with a lovely green tea scent by the evening. (Yes, I had a green tea dream that night! Ahhhh ...) Surprisingly, these shortbread cookies weren't too sweet even after they'd been coated with a layer of granulated sugar. Hmm ... Besides its lower sugar content, I wonder could that also be due to the green tea powder?

Highly recommended, these little emeralds have made their appearance all over the world ever since they debuted back in May 2007. (Oh yes! I'm well-aware that I've been a late-bloomer since young.) And, they've received tons of raved review. This is a must-try if you're a green tea lover! They're crumbly, sandy in texture, slightly crunchy and buttery, and with the perfect sweetness and green tea flavor! Mom, these are dedicated to you!

Sablés au thé vert (adapted from Kelli's)
  
(A)
64g powdered sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp Matcha green tea powder
*The higher quality your green tea powder is, the brighter green the cookies will be
142g butter, softened

214g all-purpose flour, sifted

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature 

some sugar, for coating
  1. Whisk together (A), then cream well with butter till smooth and light in color *Be patient, it'll take sometime for the mixture to turn into light-green color
  2. Mix in sifted flour into the creamed mixture till combined, then followed by egg yolks and mix till a mass has formed and the mixture is just incorporated
  3. Turn the dough out onto a plastic film and shape into a disk, wrap well and chill in the refrigerator till firm
  4. On a slightly floured surface, roll out the chilled disc of dough into 1/2-inch thickness
  5. Cut out cookies with 2-inch leaf-shaped cookie cutter, then coat their surface evenly with sugar and arrange them onto prepared baking sheets
    *I used a slightly smaller cookie cutter
    **This was what I did when my dough got stickier after a little while out from the fridge. I gathered the dough scraps up and gently pressed them together so that they "became one" again (NO kneading please!), then wrapped it well and chilled till firm again before proceeding with rolling, cutting and baking
  6. Bake sablés at 180C/350F for 12-15 minutes or till their edges are just slightly golden
  7. Remove them from the oven and transfer to cool on the wire rack completely
    *Please store the
    sablés in an airtight container that blocks the sunlight out as the green color in Matcha will fade away due to sunlight exposure.

May 28, 2009

BBQ with My Oven

I've got to say I've been learning a lot from my favorite blogging cooks, and one of them being Siukwan from Hong Kong, China. I've become hooked to all the yummy dishes that she's made ever since I found her lovely blog almost a year ago. As time went by, I've tried a number of her dishes.

Before this week even wraps up, I'd already made this particular one twice for dinner! So, you can imagine the power of this dish. 係名堂啊?(What is it?) Well, it was baked spare ribs that turned out to taste VERY similar to our beloved char siew (叉燒), or Cantonese barbequed pork. Even though it was baked, I almost felt like I'd grilled the ribs instead. Also, another great thing came from the marinade! The combo of the ingredients used blended harmoniously ... You could already taste it with your nose even before putting the cooked ribs into your mouth!

I only did some things differently from Siukwan's though. Instead of leaving the row of spare rib intact, I went ahead with the already-cut up ones that I'd kept frozen. So, the baking time was reduced. And, I used preserved whole black beans; all they needed was to be mashed up well. I also left out 沙薑 and used a teeny bit of ground turmeric even though I know they're different things. And pardon me, I really have no clue what 沙薑 is called in English other than knowing that it's a type of ginger that can't be simply replaced by its cousins. Cantonese commonly uses it in cooking such as for making 沙薑 (i.e. 沙薑chicken.) Wikipedia doesn't even have an article about it! If you know the answer, please enlighten me on that. Thanks!

A final note: the recipe below is best used as a reference rather than as a dead formula. Cooking is all about eyeballing, practicing and understanding the ingredients that you use. A recipe that works for others may not work for you. So, adjust it according to your preference. Just yesterday night, I heard over the radio that Indian cooks can't actually taste-test their cooking upon serving! Due to their religious customs, foods have to be "served" and sacrificed to gods first before humans can get their first bite. Imagine all the eyeballing that's going on in the kitchen! So, be flexible while you're having fun cooking with the recipe below.

By the way, 端午節快樂!(Happy Dragon Boat Festival!)

Chinese-Style Baked Spare Ribs 金沙骨 (adapted from Siukwan's):

600g Spare rib (leave them intact rather than cut up) 
*Or, you can do what I did by using cut-up ones instead 

(A) 
3 bulbs garlic, minced 
2 bulbs shallots, minced 
3/4 tsp salt 
3-1/2 Tbsp sugar 
1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (五香粉) 
1/2 tsp 沙薑粉 *I left this out and used a bit of ground turmeric instead 
 2 Tbsp light soy sauce 
1 Tbsp Chinese rose wine, a.k.a. mei kuei lu chiew (玫瑰露酒) *Can't be replaced!
1-1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed ginger juice 
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce (海鮮醬) 
1 Tbsp preserved black bean paste (磨豉醬)

(B)
3 Tbsp maltose
1-1/2 Tbsp water
  1. Wash and pat dry the spare rib, score a line vertically on it
  2. Marinate the rib with (A) overnight covered in the refrigerator
    *Overnight marinating is a must for the best flavor
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
  4. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil to catch the "run-off" of the sauce and grease during cooking (and to make your life easier with less mess and stubborn dishes to deal with!) Then, place a metal rack used for baking over the lined tray
  5. Drain the rib from the marinade and arrange it over the rack, then bake for 20 minutes
  6. Remove the rib from the oven and flip it over to bake its other side for 15 minutes
  7. Soften up the maltose in a bowl that's placed sitting in a tub of hot water, then dissolve it completely in the 1-1/2 Tbsp water
    *I microwaved a little bit of water and quickly stir the hot water with the maltose till dissolved
  8. Reduce oven temperature to 160C/320F
  9. Glaze one side of the rib with the maltose mixture, then bake for 5 minutes; repeat the same with the other side
  10. Cut up and serve the rib hot, warm or cold (I had mine cold)
    Note:
    Ovens are different from one to another, so are the sizes of spare ribs. Please adjust the cooking time accordingly.

May 26, 2009

A Healthier Dessert!?

Japanese sweet potato dessert first grabbed my attention through Rei's blog. My curiosity was immediately aroused when the words "creamy" and "custard-like" popped right before my eyes. Being unheard of the existence of this dessert, I marked it onto my to-do list.

About two weeks ago, I found the two sweet potatoes that I purposedly bought just for this dessert sitting in my fridge. Fearing of seeing these babies go rotting, I quickly started preparing the ingredients and making them.

Japanese sweet potatoes have purplish peels and yellowish flesh, and are recommended as THE choice for this dessert. However, I didn't follow it exactly because they were unavailable locally. So, I had to use those that came with brown peels and orange-colored flesh.

Nonetheless, the end products still turned out creamy and custard-like as promised! They gave you the perfect sweetness that tasted so natural! Oh my, possibly one of the healthiest desserts I've ever made so far! I actually found a video demonstrating how to fix this Japanese dessert. But well, I bet you'll also think that there isn't too much of a difference between this and the following version of the recipe after watching it. I suppose you can add a bit of rum and vanilla to the mixture for a slight kick of flavor with modifications to the recipe below. But, that's just a matter of preference.

Japanese Sweet Potato Dessert (adapted from Rei's):
Serves 4

500-550g Japanese sweet potatoes

(A)
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp honey or 10g castor sugar
15g heavy whipping cream
15g butter, softened

Some white or black sesame seeds, for topping (optional)
Some extra honey, for glazing (optional)
  1. Wash and steam the sweet potato wholes with their peels on till soft , then remove them from the steamer and let cool aside till warm and yet cooled enough to be handled
  2. Carefully slice the warm sweet pototoes in halves with a sharp knife so as not to tear the peels apart
  3. Take one sweet potato half and carefully scoop the flesh out to make a cavity; repeat with the remaining halves. Set the peels aside for use later
  4. While the sweet potato flesh is still warm, mash it well. Then, mix in (A) till blended
  5. Scoop the sweet potato mixture back into the cavity and sprinkle the top with some sesame seeds, then set each of the filled cavity onto a baking tray
  6. Bake them at 180C/350F for 10 minutes or till browned. If you'd like to apply some glaze, glaze them with honey first before sending to the oven to bake for 4-5 minutes.
    At 4-5 minute mark, take them out from the oven and glaze them again. Then, return them to the oven and bake till browned. Don't overbake them or they'll end up dry!

May 25, 2009

Stop the Rip-Off!: A Restaurant-Quality Treat at Home

Adzuki bean paste pancakes or 豆沙鍋餅, this classic Chinese dessert never fails to bring back the memories of my younger days. For as long as I can remember, my family's been having these crisp filled pancakes at special occasions. They can be found at my grandpa's and great uncle's (i.e. my grandpa's younger brother) birthday dinners, the annual pre- and post-Chinese New Year dinners (開工及收工酒, which are both a Cantonese practice especially among those who own a business), and at some wedding dinners sometimes. About 40 of us, including my extended family members, would get together at a Chinese restaurant and have a feast for two hours. Ah ..., those good ol' days!

Surprisingly, I learned that these pancakes are actually Shanghainese! So, they're traditionally filled with adzuki bean paste filling when served sweet. But with as much as I could recall, those that I had were normally filled with sweetened lotus seed paste filling instead. I guess this may be due to the cultural environment I grew up in as most Chinese descendants in Malaysia and Singapore are of southern Chinese descent, including Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew and Hainanese.

Since there isn't any Asian grocer around where I'm, I could only use what was on hand: adzuki beans! Wasn't it a good thing that I was sticking to the Shanghainese way of fixing this dessert LOL! Remembering I still had some homemade adzuki bean paste frozen, I took it out to use in this beloved dessert. It's always nice to have some homemade paste on hand. So, it's advisable make a big batch and freeze for future use. Trust me, nothing beats homemade adzuki bean paste! Just a few days ago, my family-friends bought some canned one. And oh my, it was yucky! No adzuki bean flavor and very sweet! Tasted just like a plain cotton candy!

Both the recipes for this pancake dessert and the adzuki bean paste were taken from one of my favorite bloggers Seadragon, another fellow Malaysian beaming from the Down Under. Making them on your own is really worth the effort because having them at restaurants is really a rip-off! Just look at the ingredients! Do you think you deserve to pay that much money just to eat it!?

Without further ado, here're the recipes (adapted from Seadrogon's):

For the pancakes:
Makes about five 20cm pancakes

120g all-purpose flour

(A)
1 egg 250ml water
30ml oil


(B)
1 tsp all-purpose flour/cornflour
1 tsp water
250g sweetened adzuki bean paste (the amount is really up to you actually and depends upon the number of pancakes you get out of the batter)
  1. Sift flour into a mixing bowl; combine (B) together and gradually mix into flour, mix whisk together until smooth and lump-free--strain it through a fine tammi if you have to
  2. Mix in the oil to the wet mixture to combine and let rest for 15 minutes aside
  3. Heat a nonstick frying pan, for 20cm pancakes, over moderate heat. Then, lightly rub some oil over the surface of the pan
    * I don't have a frying pan that fits the description exactly. So, I just made the pancakes with my wider pan. That means, my pancakes were wider than 20cm ones. Nonetheless, nonstick ones are highly recommended to avoid possible mess!
  4. Pour in about 80ml of the batter onto the pan and swirl to coat the surface of the pan with the batter evenly
    *This is also a matter of personal preference. If you like your pancakes thinner and crispier, use less batter for each pancake. And, vice versa. But of course, not too thick!
  5. Cook the batter over medium heat till set on one side, then flip the pancake over and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Dish the pancake out and onto a plate
  6. Repeat with the remaining batter till it's used up. Stack one pancake over another, cover with a towel till you're ready to use them. Let them cool slightly before filling, folding and rolling
  7. Divide the bean paste into 5 portions with each weighing at 50g, then roughly shape each into a 7cm x 14cm rectangle
    *Again, it's a matter of preference whether you like yours with lots of filling or less. And, it depends on the size of your pancakes
  8. Combine together (C) to get a slurry
  9. To assemble:
    (i) Brush the edges of each pancake with the slurry to create a "glue"
    (ii)Place an adzuki bean paste rectangle at the center of the pancake, then fold one end over and towards the center to cover the bean paste
    (iii) Next, fold both the ends/sides (whichever you'd like to consider them as) that are now on your left and right respectively towards the bean paste
    (iv) Finally, bring the last end that's unfolded towards the center to enclose the "package"; repeat with the remaining pancakes and bean paste
    You can freeze the "packages" now, wrapped in plastic film, if desired. There isn't a need to thaw them--just remove them from the freezer and shallow-fry as they're.
  10. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, then pour in enough oil for "shallow-frying"
  11. Fry each "package" of the pancakes till golden brown on both sides, dish out onto a plate
  12. Slice each into e.g. 4 sections, served hot or warm
For the sweetened adzuki bean paste: 
Makes about 500g

300g dried adzuki beans
800-1,000ml water
150-200g sugar, or adjust to taste
50-100g lard/cooking oil, or adjust to taste (but, lard really gives the paste an oomph)
  1. Soak the beans in enough water for at least 3-5 hours, or overnight; drain
    *I always soak these beans for two nights. That's an advice from my mom, she always told me that they're tough beans. So, it's best to soak them for a long period to cut down on the cooking time.
  2. Bring the 800-1,000ml water to a rapid boil in a saucepan, then add in the beans to cook over low heat until they're split and softened
    *I always check for their doneness by squishing a bean to see if they're soft enough to pass through the sieve
  3. Drain the beans and pass them through a sieve as this will give you a very fine texture
    *I'm thinking of puréeing the whole beans in a blender the next time I make them as it's less time-consuming. It may turn out to be a bit like the Japanese anko with the shells in it
  4. Melt lard and heat it till hot in a wok, stir-fry 1/4-1/3 of the sugar till melted. Then, add in the bean paste and stir-fry--mixing in the remaining sugar little by little till incorporated. Continue stir-frying till the paste becomes thick and can stand in peaks
  5. Let the paste cool aside till ready to use. For the extra, freeze and thaw for later use accordingly.

An Unordinary Pound Cake

My mom's been a big fan of butter and pound cakes. We love their buttery, eggy (, milky) flavor, and the dense, moist texture. But of course, we love them even more when they aren't too sweet. (Well, I do believe that most Asians who possess sweet tooth would fall for these types of cake. After living in the U.S. for some time, I've also noticed that Asians can't handle foods that are TOO sweet compared to Americans. It's just my observation though. So, don't quote me on that. )
   
A while back, I saw this pound cake recipe when I first found Rei's blog. But, I wasn't motivated enough to give it a shot because I am not the kind of person who will go crazy over butter and pound cakes. Coincidentally, my Flickr-then-turned good MSN buddy Youfei replicated this pound cake in her kitchen about two weeks ago. At that time, I was trying to figure out what to make for a lunch gathering at my family-friends'. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling too good and that gave me an excuse to go for something less complicated. With tons of raved reviews out there and highly recommended by Youfei, I settled upon this cake without a second thought.
 

According to Cakebrain, the pound cake is originally from Pichet Ong's Sweet Spot. And the unordinary twist comes from the use of condensed milk, which helps make the cake dense and yet moist. But, the version below has been modified for who-knows-how-many times to satisfy our not-so-sweet tooth and to reduce the amount of fats. Still, the cake turned out wonderful with a pleasant vanilla aroma and the perfect sweetness. Even my American family-friends thought that it wasn't too sweet--they'd had pound cakes that were WAY sweeter.

And just in case you're wondering, mine turned out to be VERY yellowish because of the farm eggs that I used. With that said, use cage-free farm eggs if you want a super yellowish-looking cake. My family-friends thought that we can even trick people into believing that it was a lemon cake! For all you pound cake fanatics out there, here's the recipe that you ought to try.

Condensed Milk Pound Cake (adapted from Rei's) 

(A)
120g butter, at room temperature 
55g sugar (I believe it still can be reduced by 10g)

(B)
1/4 tsp salt 
1-1/2 tsp vanilla essence 
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used "fat-free" condensed milk, which was made out of skimmed milk) 

(C)
120g cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder

2 eggs
  1. Generously grease an 8 x 3-1/2 inch loaf tin and set aside. Preheat the oven to 170C/335F
  2. Combine together (C) and sift them once, set aside for use later
  3. Cream together (A) till light and fluffy, then mix in (B) till incorporated
  4. Gradually mix in flour mixture to wet mixture--moisten the dry with the wet mixture by hand with a rubber spatula, then beat them till combined on low speed with an electric hand mixer
  5. Beat in eggs to the mixture one at a time, mix them well after each addition
  6. Pour the batter into the greased loaf tin--for the "smiley crack" to appear on the top of the cake, the batter must fill the tin till about 70% full
  7. Bake 50-60 minutes or till cake test done; remove the cake from the oven
  8. Let the cake sit in the tin for 10 minutes upon unmolding it to cool completely on a cooling rack

May 24, 2009

Pei-Lin and Dodol & Mochi

Apa khabar? Selamat datang ke blog saya Dodol & Mochi. (Bahasa Malaysia)

你好嗎?歡迎來到我的網誌Dodol & Mochi。 (Chinese)

How are you? Welcome to my blog Dodol & Mochi.


Dodol is a toffee-like Malaysian confection. Mochi is a sweet glutinous-rice snack commonly found throughout East Asia. And together they speak for who I am.

Hello! My name is Pei-Lin (PAY-Lynn).

Great Aunt and Me
My aunt and I.

I’m a Malaysian-Chinese, a multilingual vocalizer, an introvert, who discovered her love of baking, cooking, writing, and food photography during the last two years of her undergraduate education. I take great pride in being who I am.

Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was a culinary idiot before leaving home in January 2007. There I began to pursue my studies in journalism, and to lead an independent life in the U.S.

I was very reluctant to blog at the start. Back then, I was just a lurker of food blogs — a status that persisted for about two years, and during which I received handfuls of encouragement from my American family friends, the now-fellow-blogger and photography friends, and from my very own family. As time elapsed, I felt the itch to break the silence.

Right after graduating in May 2009, armed with only the basics in computer science, I racked my brains, and spent hours crafting and weaving via optic fiber, alone in my apartment.

Shaken by the words of Molly Wizenberg, the great mind behind Orangette, I made probably the craziest decision, among others, in my life.

On May 24 that same year, I finally gave birth to Dodol & Mochi — a canvas on which I’ve been painting thereafter, to express myself through my love of food and language, and through life and all things visual. Oftentimes I find myself stuck between the East and the West. Well, thanks to my life experiences, which have molded me into who and what I am today. It’s a conundrum that I have to live with, I guess.

When this blog celebrated its first birthday, I decided to rekindle the good ol' days and recount how things started in the kitchen for me. If you’re keen on listening to my story, hop over here and listen to the replay.

The Moment That Changed Me Forever ...

Like I said, this crazy path taken, which led to the birth of this blog, has brought into my already-hectic, very fast-paced life an even tighter schedule. Believe me when I say fast-paced — I mean it. Now that Im back in Kuala Lumpur, things in this part of the world can get pretty impatient.

While I’m juggling to the best I can with career and other commitments, I still love to hear from you. Nothing beats heartwarming, soulful words. To talk to me, leave a line or two on my blog, or drop me a mail at liew[dot]peilin[at]gmail[dot]com. I shall get back to you the soonest I can. You're also welcome to join me on Twitter and Flickr.

I just want to let you know your words and visits here are the force that keeps me going and that pushes me further.

Terima kasih! (Bahasa Malaysia)

謝謝! (Chinese)

Thank you!
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